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Overland Route

In 1850 a diorama entitled Overland Route of the Mail from Southampton to Calcutta opened at the elegant ‘Gallery of Illustrations’, in London’s Regent Street, to great acclaim. The diorama was the work of artists Thomas Grieve and William Telbin and consisted of over thirty full-size, painted scenes on a revolving stage, accompanied by a learned commentary and ‘a musical descriptive fantasia’ inspired by the ports and places encountered by P&O passengers en route.   

In addition to making a financial contribution to the diorama, P&O granted the artists free passage to Spain and Portugal ‘for the purpose of taking sketches’ and lent ‘oriental costumes’ for the actual performances. The diorama was a great success attracting audiences of over 200,000 in the first year and a long list of distinguished visitors, including Prince Albert, who attended with several of his children. 

The diorama was recreated in an album of watercolours, presented to Brodie McGhie Willox, one of the Company’s founding fathers, and engraved as plates in the book of The Route of the Overland Mail to India, which followed. Today the thirty-one watercolours are one of the treasures of the P&O Heritage Collection.

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Workmen putting up P&O's new neon sign in the 1950s

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